An Abyssian cat artfully lounges across the knee of its female owner, the latter wearing denim jeans with the bottoms folded up, suggesting an air of relaxed youthfulness. On her feet are a pair of soft slippers in cream, doing their best to look designer cool.
The footwear, in what is one of a set of marketing pictures (see another above), is the Charentaise slipper, but not as we know it.
The felt and wool slipper has long been associated with grey-haired grandfathers asleep in front of the fire. But the Conseil General of the Charente, along with manufacturers of the traditional Charentaise slipper, are determined to make it a covetable item of footwear.
Back in 2006, they created the brand Tcha – Toujours CHArentaise – and asked crop of young fashion designers from the Institut français de la mode to create a more modern slipper. The students came up with 176 designs which were shown at the international Maison et Objet show in Paris. The following year they staged a fashion show at the Eiffel Tower.
The slippers got themselves plenty of attention and six of the designs went into production. They have been so successful that later this year Tcha will open a new factory in Angoulême – where the slippers were first made in the 18th century.
Back then the Charente capital was known for its paper mills. Its workers realised that the felt of the felt rollers used to squeeze excess water from the paper pulp became impermeable after use, making it the perfect material from which to make comfortable and supple soles for footwear.
And so they used it to make slippers that were worn inside their wooden clogs, the top of the slipper made from wool fabric discarded by local weavers making uniforms for the French navy and sewn onto the sole using locally produced hemp thread.
Tcha is not the only company going modern. Rondinaud have been making the slippers in La Rochefoucauld since 1907. Each year they launch 50 new designs, always with the traditional felt sole but with very different tops including candy pink with a silk butterfly motif, embroidered roses and tulips and even leopard print. Cool for cats! RL